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Cutty Sark vs Red Label: Discover the Better!

Discover the differences between Cutty Sark vs Johnnie Walker Red Label in this head to head comparison and decide which Scotch is better for You!

Cutty Sark

  • Nose: Sour apples, pepper, alcohol
  • Palate: Lemon, honey, black pepper, alcohol
  • Finish: Short-lived, fruity and peppery
  • Alcohol content: 80 proof (40% ABV)
  • How to drink: Highball
  • Similar to: Famous Grouse


The nose is quite bad as it provides a sour apple note off the gate, followed by a peppery note, along a whiff of alcohol.

On the palate, the Cutty Sark feels thin, with a watery texture providing a poor mouthfeel.

Flavor is lemon and honey up-front, with black pepper, oak spice and alcohol coming behind overwhelming the taste.

The finish is short-lived, with a faint fruity note and more peppery and oak spice bitterness.

Is it good?

The Cutty Sark does not make a good sipper as it is too peppery, bitter and alcoholic.

It improves when served on the rocks as ice tunes down some of the bad notes although the better use of the Cutty Sark is in highballs.

If you drown it in soda you can make a decent highball and is not bad when mixed with ginger ale.

Overall, the Cutty Sark is not a good tasting whisky and even though is cheap it does not provide good value for the money.

The best this whisky has to offer is the label which is quite nice and brings a nostalgic note.

Cutty Sark facts:

  • This whisky is not as old as others in the industry as it was launched in 1923, named after the famous British clipper ship.
  • Cutty Sark belonged for many years to the Edrington Group who owns top brands such as Macallan, Highland Park and Glenrothes, with the latter providing most of the malts in the blend.
  • Unfortunately Edrington sold Cutty Sark in 2018. La Martiniquaise, the new owner, does not disclose the origin of the whiskies in the blend leaving us in the dark.

Johnnie Walker Red Label

  • Nose: Black pepper, leather, nail polish
  • Palate: Pepper, caramel, oak spice, leather, tobacco
  • Finish: Short, black pepper
  • Alcohol content: 80 proof (40% ABV)
  • How to drink: Highball
  • Similar to: Black Label, Bell’s


The nose hits you with a spicy blast at first, followed by a leathery note and nail polish.

On the palate, the Red Label has a thin body, is warm and hits you with spice and pepper providing a not pretty mouthfeel. There is some butterscotch coming behind, along a leathery note and tobacco.

The finish is short, which is a good thing as you do not want to extend the pain, it’s also warm and peppery.

Is it good?

The JW Red Label is not a good sipper, the flavor is too peppery and boozy providing a bad experience.

It gets better when served on a high ball as mineral water tunes down the heat and spice, which is not a great achievement as everything gets better when served in a highball.

Overall, the Red Label is not a good whisky and the weakest Johnnie Walker, this is not something I would recommend neither to newbies or for those who value a smooth dram.

If you are drinking on a budget there are better options out there such as the Dewar’s or Jameson which mix incredibly well in any cocktail.

Red Label facts:

  • Johnnie Walker Red Label has been the best-selling Scotch whisky across the globe since 1945, although not the best-selling in neither in the UK nor Scotland.
  • This brand is owned by Diageo a British spirits giant, with an extensive portfolio in the industry including Casamigos, Don Julio, Captain Morgan, Talisker, Bulleit and a zillion other brands.

Cutty Sark vs Red Label: Price comparison

Prices are approximate and stated in USD:

Cutty Sark$26
Johnnie Walker Red Label$29

Cutty Sark vs Johnnie Walker Red Label: Which is better?

Cutty Sark is a little better (not as bad)

  • The Cutty Sark is better (more bearable) than the Red Label. Neither one nor the other make good sips and serve primarily as mixers.
  • There are better Scotch and Irish blends at this price range that you should consider before these whiskies.

Alternatives to Cutty Sark and Red Label

If you are drinking on a tight budget consider these options before the Cutty Sark or the Red Label:

  • Famous Grouse
  • Dewar’s White Label
  • Jameson
  • Proper 12, Conor McGregor’s whiskey which is surprisingly good.

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